Although alteration in pulmonary venous flow has been reported to relate to mitral regurgitant severity, it is also known to vary with left ventricular (LV) systolic and diastolic dysfunction. There are few data relating pulmonary venous flow to quantitative indexes of mitral regurgitation (MR). The object of this study was to assess quantitatively the accuracy of pulmonary venous flow for predicting MR severity by using transesophageal echocardiographic measurement in patients with variable LV dysfunction. This study consisted of 73 patients undergoing heart surgery with mild to severe MR. Regurgitant orifice area (ROA), regurgitant stroke volume (RSV), and regurgitant fraction (RF) were obtained by quantitative transesophageal echocardiography and proximal isovelocity surface area. Both left and right upper pulmonary venous flow velocities were recorded and their patterns classified by the ratio of systolic to diastolic velocity: normal (>/=1), blunted (<1), and systolic reversal (<0). Twenty-three percent of patients had discordant patterns between the left and right veins. When the most abnormal patterns either in the left or right vein were used for analysis, the ratio of peak systolic to diastolic flow velocity was negatively correlated with ROA (r = -0.74, P <.001), RSV (r = -0.70, P <.001), and RF (r = -0.66, P <.001) calculated by the Doppler thermodilution method; values were r = -0.70, r = -0.67, and r = -0.57, respectively (all P <.001), for indexes calculated by the proximal isovelocity surface area method. The sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of the reversed pulmonary venous flow pattern for detecting a large ROA (>0.3 cm(2)) were 69%, 98%, and 97%, respectively. The sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of the normal pulmonary venous flow pattern for detecting a small ROA (<0.3 cm(2)) were 60%, 96%, and 94%, respectively. However, the blunted pattern had low sensitivity (22%), specificity (61%), and predictive values (30%) for detecting ROA of greater than 0.3 cm(2) with significant overlap with the reversed and normal patterns. Among patients with the blunted pattern, the correlation between the systolic to diastolic velocity ratio was worse in those with LV dysfunction (ejection fraction <50%, r = 0.23, P >.05) than in those with normal LV function (r = -0.57, P <.05). Stepwise linear regression analysis showed that the peak systolic to diastolic velocity ratio was independently correlated with RF (P <.001) and effective stroke volume (P <.01), with a multiple correlation coefficient of 0.71 (P <.001). In conclusion, reversed pulmonary venous flow in systole is a highly specific and reliable marker of moderately severe or severe MR with an ROA greater than 0.3 cm(2), whereas the normal pattern accurately predicts mild to moderate MR. Blunted pulmonary venous flow can be seen in all grades of MR with low predictive value for severity of MR, especially in the presence of LV dysfunction. The blunted pulmonary venous flow pattern must therefore be interpreted cautiously in clinical practice as a marker for severity of MR.